Author Topic: Complex Tagging System - Classical Music Collections (and not only) [UPDATE 1]  (Read 3563 times)

TB Diego

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I decided to create this thread to share with You my tagging system. On the web You can find hundreds of discussions considering methods for indexing classical music pieces, making the search as intuitive as possible, creating complex autopaylists etc.

Over the years I’ve used multiple multimedia managers and programs. Each of them offered something interesting, but also reduced some other useful features. Finally I’ve encountered MusicBee, which, when it comes to tagging, is the best software available. So at last I was able to develop a system which suits me in almost every aspect. I decided to share it with you to give some hints and ideas to inexperienced users and also to receive some feedback, which hopefully will let me to make my system even better.

One last thing to say: I’m aware of that some of my ideas may seem unnecessary or even ridiculous, so please don’t be rude. I’d be happp if even just one person would find something useful here.

So to begin with, I will describe almost every tagging field available (using the order which you can see when you hit EDIT option in MusicBee), along with my custom tags, and explain how my tags are useful to me. I will focus on the classical music tagging, because that’s the main part of my library. Also, I will ignore tags which are obvious (like ALBUM ARTIST)

IMPORTANT NOTICE: I recommend pairing your custom tags with existing tags through custom tags setup in preferences. That will allow you to preserve your tags in case of changing the software or some unfortunate accidents like database lost.


These are very useful tag for organise your classical music collection – eg. When you have a piece with the title: "Piano Concerto no. 1 in G minor, op. 17 – 1. Allegro" you can put "Piano Concerto no. 1 in G minor, op. 17" in the field WORK and "1. Allegro" in the field MOVEMENT. These lets you to group your tracks by the work with the sub-grouping option while maintaining the full track name available to display in the player panel or on your portable device.

You can do the same with operas, but another option is to fill MOVEMENT field with "Act I"/"Act II" etc. and then (using the sub-grouping) organising it to display neat list of tracks divided into acts.

Another use for the WORK field is to fill it with name of the work in your native language/original language, to make searching easier. For example, you could have multiple versions of the same work from different countries (eg. Shubert’s Winterreise/Winter Journey/Voyage d’hiver). You can tag all of them as "Winterreise" and than they will all appear in the search results when you type in the word.

WORK field is also useful when you have multiple cd album with a lot of different works (eg. "Franco Corelli – 14 CD set – 7 complete operas" and you want to maintain all of them as one album – all you need to do is again fill the field with work titles and setup MusicBee to group tracks by WORK tab.


I recommend to use the split feature, because when it comes to classical music, you will often end up with things like: "Luciano Pavarotti, Chorus of..., Orchestra of..., Georg Solti (conductor)". All of these can vary, and you can have multiple combinations of these. Splitting this values are not vital, but if you’re using column browser, then it will be much clear and Luciano Pavarotti will be displayed as artist once, not multiple times.


This feature allows you to store information about opera vocal performers. You don't want to have them in the regular ARTIST tag, because that would result in very long tag value. Instead, You can put the name of the singer in the artist (performer) tag and the "Role - voice type" in the ROLE/INSTRUMENT tag, so you will come up with something like that: "Luciano Pavarotti (Kalaf - tenor). This will let you to organise your opera collection and to search library by roles, which is very usefule with multiple recordings of the same opera.

Alternatively, or in addition to it, you can use LYRICS tag to store the complete list of singers and their roles.


The latter is my custom tag, but I setup MusicBee to save it to the actual RELEASE TIME tag.
I just want to pint out that it gives you much more flexibility – now you can use the YEAR tag to store information when the track was recorded/released for the first time (very useful in classical music collection, but also when it comes to compilations, "best of" albums etc.) and the RELEASE YEAR tag to indicate when the actual album was released.


Nothing special here, but remember, that you can type in "Bootleg" to indicate those precius recording you were able to find or "---" for albums that you created yourself (eg. by downloading separate tracks from the web).


One hint. When it comes to composers whose names spell differently depending on the language (like Sergei Rachmaninoff) and you want to keep them just for the knowledge, that’s the place to make the things homogeneous – just be sure to always type the name in your language/composer’s language. Again, it will help while searching.


Two of this tags are my custom, I put them together because we have now very complex theme, which is: how to properly tag a genre in classical music collection.

There are many different opinions on what is the best way to use the GENRE tag. Some recommend to fill it with music periods (baroque, romanticism etc.), actual classical music genres (opera, piano concerto etc.) or just "classical" and than use the grouping field for futher indexing.

My system is:
1. Fill in GENRE depending on... the genre (eg. Opera, Symphony, Concerto etc.)
2. Use the TYPE custom for mor specific information (eg. Opera – Dramma giocoso/Opera buffa/Grand opera, Mass – Requiem/Cantus firmus mass, Concerto – Piano concerto/Flute concerto etc.)
3. Use the PERIOD/STYLE to precise the time (eg. Romanticism, XXth century, Modernism, Verismo etc.). You can make it even more precise, eg Romanticism (erlay/middle/late)
4. Use the ORIGINAL YEAR to indicate the composition dates - this leaves you the possibility to fill the YEAR tag as mentioned earlier.

This gives you the full controll over your classical music genres and periodization. Remember that using MusicBee you can use the genre grouping features, so all of your genres will still be considered as classical music. Alternatively, you could fill the GENRE tag like that: "Classical – Opera/Classical – Symphony" etc.

Of course, this system (or parts of it) can be functional with other music styles too: you can categorise your jazz collection (jazz, smooth jazz, bebop etc.), use the PERIOD/STYLE to mark the decade in pop music (when you don’t know the exact date) or use the TYPE field in connection with electronic music (eg. mix, original mix, dance mix etc.)


This tag can have many possible uses, again I’m using it mainly in connection with my classical music collection – to indicate if the work is complete ore there are just excerpts or highlights on the album. I also use it to separate continuous mixes, cover versions etc.


Apart from obvious uses, you can use it to type in the album name in it’s proper language when you bought the album abroad (eg. I’ve got soundtrack from "C’era una volta in West" and I want the title to match the cover in my album cover view, so I put "Once Upon a Time in the West" here).


I use this tag mostly for operas, because often composers wrote operas in different languages, so it is nice for example to keep track of French operas written by non-French composers


The first one is an actual existing tag, so just configure MesicBee to be able to display and save it. The second one is for all that stuff like "Op. 1 no. 2, KV 542 etc". It’s all up to you: sometimes you want to have this information in the title, sometimes you don’t, and that’s when such a tag comes in handy. Alternatively you could use the WORK tag, but it would limit it’s usability.


Another existing tag which is used by me to store information like: "bonus track/previously unreleased/first known recording of...’ etc.


My example uses: "CD/CD (box)/CD (collection)/Digital download/YouTube download/Tape rip/Vinyl rip" etc. Useful to track sources of your collection.


Custom tag that makes possible to indicate if it is studio album, live album, concept album etc, best of album etc.


I use it to store the information of how much I payed for the album.


As you may know, play count and date added infos are store in MusicBee database only, so it would be nice to have them stored inside file tags. With additional tagging tools plugin you can make the PL_COUNT being updated automatically, and you can fill DT_ADDED easily with copy "tag command". Just make sure that these custom tags are stored in a music file tags, not in the database.


Useful for storing information about opera librettist/song text authors


You can use this field to store synopsis of operas (Wikipedia is a magnificent source of them, also you can rewrite the content of opera album booklets if you're real geek ;-). You can do it by track or by several tracks that together makes a scene or an act. That way while listening you will know what is happening in the plot at the moment.

So that’s all for me. I’m waiting for some comments, especially improvements and changes suggestion. Also share your system if you have one!
Last Edit: July 11, 2018, 12:45:35 PM by TB Diego


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This is an excellent guide.  I've always wanted some standardized way to tag my classical music (right now a lot of info winds up in the title field so when I play them on a portable player it's all displayed - "Composer Short Name: Work - Opus - Title" - which is unwieldy and not easy to sort by much other than within the same composer) but I could never decide on one standard.  This seems like a good, rational, complete system to start with.

One suggestion - maybe make the thread title more descriptive like "Classical Music Tagging Guide" or "Classical Music Tagging Tips" so that it'll come up in Google searches (and site searches) when people search for good ways to tag classical music.

Good work.
A smile is happiness you'll find right under your nose.

TB Diego

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Thank You for Your opinion frankz, I've add some more things about opera. Really appreciate Your opinion!


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Great write-up as I build up my own classical collection.

@TB Diego, one (potentially silly) question: What do you do with Album Artist field? I have a recording from "Boston Symphony Orchestra, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson & Seiji Ozawa" split into three artists in the Artist field:

   Boston Symphony Orchestra
   Lorraine Hunt Lieberson
   Seiji Ozawa

In your organization system, do you leave them in the Album Artist field as: Boston Symphony Orchestra, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson & Seiji Ozawa?

TB Diego

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As some wise man once said, there are no silly questions, there are just silly answers. ;)

Iny my collection, Album Artist field content is based on the album type:

- if it's opera recording or works by one composer, I use the composer name (here You can for example maintain different spelling options for names like Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff etc. or You can unify them like in the composer tag0.

- if it's album by two composer's (eg symphonies by Haydn and Mozart) I use them both.

- if it's tribute/best of album, I use the artist name (so for album "Best of Domingo" it would be "Placido Dmingo")

You could also fill this tag with people from the cover - it's obvious that there are more persons involved with Puccini's Turandot than "Pavarotti, Sutherland, Bonynge", but You can use these names as well.

Main advantage of this tag is that You can view how many albums of specific artist or composer you have, so figure out which information is more important to You and suit Yourself. Personally I think that using composer whenever it's possible is the best option, because it's the only way of displaying the composer in a neat way: I don't like to put it in the track title, as it is often practicised, and my composer's field is filled with entries like: Chopin, Fryderyk (1810-1849), so here is the possibility to have the "Fryderyk Chopin" neatly displayed.
Last Edit: July 08, 2018, 10:47:06 PM by TB Diego


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@TB Diego, thanks for the suggestions. Properly organizing my classical collection is very different from cataloging my heavy metal collection  ;)


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This feature allows you to store information about opera vocal performers. You don't want to have them in the regular ARTIST tag, because that would result in very long tag value. Instead, You can put the name of the singer in the artist (performer) tag and the "Role - voice type" in the ROLE/INSTRUMENT tag, so you will come up with something like that: "Luciano Pavarotti (Kalaf - tenor). This will let you to organise your opera collection and to search library by roles, which is very usefule with multiple recordings of the same opera.
Do you use splitting for roles?